From the off it’s evident Menace Beach wear their influences on their sleeves. The Leeds five piece are named after a 90s video game and vocalist/guitarist Ryan Needham has said, sonically he’s inspired by late 90s guitar music, essentially the arse end of the Britpop years. Scuzzed up guitars, fuzzy vocals and murky pop hooks – these are the spongey foundations of debut LP ‘Ratworld’. With a vermin indebted title, the record isn’t the dirty mesh of guitar licks and guttural scree you’d expect, underneath the fuzz you’ll find melody and tunefulness if you delve deep enough.
It’s hard to shake off the notion that ‘Ratworld’ is more of an homage to a beloved time gone by as opposed to a record that reimagines inspiration and remoulds it for a new generation. For all the album’s grungy moments a rehashed 90s vibe smothers ‘Ratworld’. It would be harsh to claim any kind of box ticking to the past decade currently in vogue but there’s a roll call of events that would fit nicely into The Simpsons’ episode ‘Homerpalooza’ – nods to slacker culture crop up on song titles ‘Come On Give Up’ and ‘Drop Outs’ and hey, there’s even track called ‘Infinite Donut’ – lest we not forget band members lank hair coupled with natty cardigans too.
‘Ratworld’ is a laboured affair which, bizarrely, is the album’s blessing and curse. More energetic moments such as ‘Lowtalkin’ and ‘Tastes Like Medicine’ offer up much needed pep, but these are dragged down by the perpetual fuzz of ‘Blue Eye’ and ‘Pick Out The Pieces’ which would have worked well as one minute interludes but three minutes of static and indiscernible vocals hamper the LP’s momentum. However, it’s a nice touch when the fuzzy meanderings of nothingness bleed into the proceeding tracks, adding a continuous smudge of sound.
Ultimately ‘Ratworld’ sounds a tad on the twee side in comparison to Menace Beach’s raucous live performances – everything could be and should be louder, heavier, scuzzier and of course, fuzzier.
Menace Beach have side stepped pastiche and avoided audio regurgitation (just) but ‘Ratworld’ reels out like a dusty VHS of Empire Records – not the high definition remake it could have been.
Word and Thoughts of Adam Williams